While progress has been made, many agencies and organizations–especially those in marketing and creative spaces–are struggling with diversity hiring and retention.
In an open discussion on this important topic, an expert panel of diverse leaders in marketing, creative and media weighed in on questions to open the conversation and improve diversity in the industry. These panelists include Twila Dang, founder of Matriarch Digital Media, Clarke Sanders, founder of Hustle LLC, Ed Huerta-Margotta, director of recruiting at Carmichael Lynch, and Kat Dalager, senior manager of marketing and operations at SPR Therapeutics.
Here’s a summary of what we learned:
Question 1: What is diversity?
“Diversity is what you want the world to look like, and how you build that every single day.” —Twila Dang, Founder of Matriarch Digital Media
According to the panelists, diversity is bringing together people of different backgrounds–such as diversity of thought, location, gender, ethnicity, and orientation–while creating a space where they can share and listen to their different perspectives and create something beautiful. This ability to build, create and act is essential to both diversity and to the success of an organization.
Question 2: Clarke Sanders, can you share a few key steps that all marketing agencies and departments should take to be more inclusive of their diverse employees and audiences?
“Are you creating space to be a part of, or a are you creating a space to keep someone apart from? Not every space is going to be 100% inclusive—we can’t guarantee that. But what we can offer folks is a space to sit and listen, genuinely.”—Clarke Sanders, Founder of Hustle LLC
Diversity is innate to us as humans, but one thing to think about is the practice of empowerment as opposed to influence: Companies have their cultures, and generally seek people who will “fit” into that culture and feel comfortable–but a large part of this is ensuring that employees feel empowered by the company culture. Because no one can guarantee that everyone is going to feel 100% safe all the time, the focus should be on creating “brave spaces,” where everyone is given room to bring their thoughts to the table and where these thoughts will be listened to, genuinely.
The key with brave spaces is learning individuality and authenticity. In order to be inclusive, everyone should be encouraged to bring their whole selves to work and communicate in a way that builds authentic connections and is welcoming to different backgrounds and ideas.
Question 3: Kat Dalager, why is it important to consider diversity when making hiring decisions, and what are some common mistakes employers make when implementing a hiring strategy?
“I think it’s important for marketing to represent the world, and it’s really hard to represent the world if we’re only in a little bubble.” —Kat Dalager, Senior Manager of Marketing & Operations, SPR Therapeutics
We need to hear the voices of diverse populations we represent, and diversity is what allows us to do so by building relationships and lending us a variety of perspectives to help understand how our messages will be perceived. Not only does this strengthen us as marketers, but also as people by building relationships among our teams and clients. The opposite of this is insulation and stasis, which are dangerous because they limit the ability to be nimble and responsive.
A common mistake in diversity hiring practices is thinking in terms of checkboxes. This is not about “I need one person from this ethnicity and one person from that,” but about aspects that increase the diversity of perspectives in your team and enhance your view of the rest of the world. Think: What would it take for me and my team to view the world through a wider lens?
What are a few ways organizations can develop and sustain a diverse network of candidates right here in the Twin Cities?
In a nutshell, the answer is to get outside your organization! There is a plentitude of diverse BIPOC talent in the Twin Cities, but it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and engage with others to expand your pool of candidates. If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, get involved with new organizations, develop relationships with new groups, and you’ll uncover a wealth of local talent.
Looking for a place to get started? See a list of organizations below!
Question 4: Twila Dang, what policies/changes do you believe employers should prioritize when it comes to engaging and retaining women in the workplace?
“You need to be a good steward of your organization. Just because the standard and the status quo is to pay a woman less than a man doesn’t mean you have to do that. You are in a position of power–use your individual power.” —Twila Dang, Founder of Matriarch Digital Media
No matter if you’re a corporate hiring manager or a department head, if your goal is to engage and retain women in the workplace, make choices and policies that elevate women and give them a voice at the table. Women bring many unique talents to the workplace–negotiating skills, multitasking and empathy, to name a few–but these are often overlooked in favor of traits such as assertiveness or aggressiveness.
Additionally, start structuring the work environment such that women are not required to make the choice to step back from their careers for long periods of time, be it for childcare or other responsibilities outside of work. Women are too often not invited back to the workplace after this time away, so creative, collaborative and innovative ways to keep women engaged are important. After all, if the pandemic taught us one thing it is that that we are highly creative and adaptive—and onsite, traditional employment does not work for everyone. Getting women, and other “hidden” workers, back into the workforce is critical for addressing the labor shortage. Attract and engage valuable employees by building structures that support everyone.
Question 5: Ed Huerta-Margotta, what are the most impactful ways employers can prepare to receive diverse employees in order to improve employee experience and retention?
“Be prepared to be unprepared” —Ed Huerta-Margotta, Director of Recruiting for Carmichael Lynch
Both the following statements are true about every organization: The culture = the people, the people = the culture.
Because of this, whenever a new person enters your organization, the culture should evolve in response. This means building a culture that is respectful of others, encourages open communication, and is willing to evolve.
When an organization asks for diverse groups to lend their voices, they must also be prepared to listen and act on what is shared. Culture cannot be generic and cannot assume that people of a certain group will react a certain way. Instead, encourage employees to speak up and be ready to adapt to what they are telling you.
Additionally, consider stepping out and developing relationships outside of work to meet the whole person. Building relationships and listening are key!
Question 5: Twila Dang, how do you inspire change when an organization is not ready?
Practice your listening skills and empower people to start and have conversations. Create that brave space and change will catch on!
Looking to get involved? Here are some organizations that connect employers with BIPOC/Women talent in the Twin Cities:
Bus Stop Mamas – Career reentry and workforce support for parents and families
Black Tech Talent – Resource for Black technologists
People of Color Careers – Actionable steps for employers and career support for BIPOC humans
Allies in Recruiting (AIR) – Organization for advertising, marketing and tech recruiters to promote diversity, equity and inclusion